Based on a strategic evaluation, the Slovak Defence Ministry will recommend that the government ends Slovakia's involvement in the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Defence Minister Ľubomír Galko (Freedom and Solidarity (SaS)) told a press conference on Wednesday, March 16.
The involvement of Slovak soldiers in the mission is of minimal importance to the development of the Slovak Armed Forces, the minister said, adding that UN missions, when compared to those run by NATO and the EU, barely develop military capabilities. "In light of Slovakia's capabilities and size, our contribution (to UNFICYP) of nearly 200 troops is excessive. The Czech Republic, for instance, has ten soldiers stationed in Cyprus, Poland has 15 and Hungary 88," he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. According to Galko, the decision is also due to expenditure on the mission. A total of 1,900 Slovak soldiers have served in the Cyprus mission. A troop withdrawal will require the approval of both the government and parliament.
However, the announcement earned Galko a fierce rebuke from Foreign Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ)), who said on Wednesday that he was angered by his fellow minister’s recommendation that the government withdraw the Slovak peacekeeping contingent from Cyprus in the interests of saving money. "We shouldn't trumpet that we're about to withdraw soldiers because our shoe pinches. Such an approach is irresponsible, amateurish and harms Slovakia," said Dzurinda, adding that Galko should have first discussed the issue discreetly.
The foreign affairs minister went on to say that he wants to examine the budget of the Defence Ministry to see whether it is really necessary to scrimp on the Cyprus mission. Galko also said that if money is found outside the Defence Ministry budget, the Slovak contingent might remain in Cyprus. Dzurinda lambasted the statement, describing it as blackmail. Galko’s response to Dzurinda's furious reaction was to describe it as "a bit emotive and conceited".
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.